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High School Girls Basketball: Grand Island, Oursler too tall of a task for Hamburg

Kendra Quinn-Moultrie, pictured here taking the ball to the hoop, and her hamburg teammates fell in consecutive seasons to Grand Island in the Section VI championship game. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Cassie Oursler can attract so much attention on the basketball court that whether or not she has the ball or is making plays, the Grand Island 6-foot-4 forward is taking opponents out of their game.

Hamburg was so intent on slowing her down it opened many opportunities for her Viking teammates and even seemed to have the Bulldogs’ offense out of sync as they experienced difficulty finishing on the other end.

Oursler and company were a little too much for Hamburg for a second straight year in a Section VI final. Grand Island won a fifth straight sectional title with a 49-39 victory over the Bulldogs in the Class A-1 final on Saturday (March 2) at NCCC, behind Oursler’s dominant play on both ends of the court and some key shots and stops from her teammates.

“We’ve got some height and our gameplan was to sandwich Oursler in there as much as possible and double-team her as much as we can, but you’re going to give up something else in your game to take away what she does,” said Hamburg head coach Kelly Owens, whose team lost to Grand Island in the final seconds of last year’s final.

“We certainly were going to make her work for whatever she was going to get today,” Owens added. “They gave us transition opportunities in the beginning and that’s normally our thing but for whatever reason we got our opportunities and lay-ups didn’t fall and outside shots didn’t fall.”

Hamburg created those opportunities with the occasional full-court pressure, but wasn’t able to hit many of the same shots it made most of the season, especially when the offense was clicking down the stretch.

“I think it came down to what was going to fall for us, and it just wasn’t our day, I guess,” Owens said. “We had our lay-up and inside opportunities, and we didn’t capitalize on them. In a game like this, you’ve got to do that.”
Hamburg’s Taylor Wolf tries to pry the ball from Grand Island 6-foot-4 forward Cassie Oursler, who was dominant in the Vikings’ fifth straight sectional title victory. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Oursler scored seven of her 16 points in the third quarter as Grand Island began to pull away. She added 21 rebounds and seven blocks.

The Vikings stretched a lead they held for nearly the entire game to as many as 16 at 37-21 with 2:42 left in the third, but Hamburg finished the quarter on a 10-2 run to get the deficit within eight. Hamburg would get no closer in the fourth, though, cutting the lead back to eight with 2:57 left in the game and again with 1:06 remaining.

“We were so pumped up before the game; I had a good feeling about it when the game started,” said the Robert Morris-bound Oursler, who was a little under the weather and had nearly lost her voice by game’s end. “Everyone stepped up and did what they’re supposed to do. It was all around a team victory.”

When Oursler couldn’t get up a shot while being doubled, she found her open teammates who knocked down some clutch field goals. Grand Island head coach Jen Banker was proud to see her other players give their most disciplined effort of the year by not forcing shots or passes into Oursler.

Grace Olszewski gave the Vikings a spark in the first half, scoring all seven of her points then, while Dakayla Winfield scored eight of her 10 points in the second half. Stephanie Knight also scored seven for Grand Island.

“Oursler did a nice job and I think our other kids did a nice job of finding the open person, because they doubled Cassie in the first half and instead of them forcing it, they found the open person and we got a lot of easy baskets off that. She draws the double and then it’s up to the other kids to do something with that,” Banker said.

Hamburg did not have a scorer in double digits. Senior forwards Taylor Wolf and junior Kendra Quinn-Moultrie each led the Bulldogs with nine points. Junior small forward/guard Leah Jones scored five of her eight points in the third quarter.

“Down the stretch, the last seven or eight games, teams have been trying to take away our inside game,” Owens said. “People look at numbers and Kendra’s been putting up double-digits all season long and Taylor and her have both been grabbing double-digit rebounds. We expected teams to sit in zones on us and we’ve been working on that but that hurt us today.”

After Hamburg scored the first three points of the game, Grand Island opened a 20-11 lead. The Bulldogs scored the next seven points, highlighted by the second three-pointer of the game from junior guard Jill Ford (seven points), but the Vikings responded with the final six of the half and led 26-18 at the intermission.

Oursler said Grand Island focused on taking away the combination of Quinn-Moultrie, Hamburg’s top scorer, and Wolf down low. And with Oursler and 6-foot senior teammate and captain Kassie Bennett, the Vikings had the players to do it.

“They’re definitely a good team,” Oursler said of Hamburg. “We played them last year in the final and they lost four of their starters but we knew (Taylor Wolf) was still here and was good, and we knew their coaching was good. We worked in practice all week against all of the things they could possibly do. We knew who the main players were that would give us the most trouble and we focused on them.”

The loss ends a Hamburg season that was even more exceptional than last year. Coming off a 17-4 mark, an even younger Bulldogs’ squad repeated as division champions, sectional finalists and ended with a 19-2 mark.

“It was an outstanding season overall; the kids played awesome and they’re a great team but we just happened to fall short of the mark today,” Owens said.
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